My, it’s been a long time since I posted on an essay/talk from this project. Even though I was so excited to get to the next section on love, this series on Darwin finally stalled me. It was interesting but after 4 essays delving into Darwin and evolution, I was approaching a stupor. So with some time passed, I’m determined to get through this last essay!
First of all, I’ll share a little Adler humour from the beginning of the essay:
“Last time I began by reporting to you the experimental evidence in regard to animal intelligence, especially the perceptual insight of the chimpanzee …. a chimpanzee made a crude tool to fetch bananas by fitting together two bamboo sticks to make a longer one. And as a matter of fact, I fumbled doing this last time and someone who saw the show told me during the week that I had fumbled and didn’t do it as well as the chimpanzee. Well, it’s hard to be an intelligent chimpanzee. And though I practiced, I didn’t quite succeed.”
In The Answer to Darwin, Adler completed addressing Darwin’s evidence for evolution and then presented the opposing view, based on the premise that man alone is rational, in that:
- only humans make artistically
- only humans think discursively
- only humans associate politically
In The Uniqueness of Man, Adler will now sum up the evidence and address the issue’s importance.
Only Humans Have A History
Mortimer connects this title with the third point: only humans associate politically, and says he has two more points.
- Only Human Life Has Historical Development – in that animals have a biological or physical inheritance but only man also has a cultural inheritance, and transmission of ideas and institutions from generation to generation.
- Only Humans Merely Subsist or Live Well – in that animals are more or less successful in their struggle for existence and satisfying their biological requirements whereas man can live two different types of lives based on either animality or rationality. Even if prehistoric man did not live as civilized man does now, he had the potentiality to do it. “The development or maturation of potentiality is not evolution.”
Man Alone is Rational
Adler believes all the evidence that he has presented proves that man alone is rational. But Luckman interjects. Man can plead his own case, but what would the animals say if asked? He reads a John Stuart Mill quote and Bertrand Russell’s response:
“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. It is better to be Socartes dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool or the pig are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question,” to which Russell replied, “No one has asked the pig how he feels about it.”
Adler asserts that Luckman’s point “cuts both ways,” giving an example of bowler birds who appear to build their nests very artistically, but says if asked, the bowler birds would likely support his argument and not those who may think they are attempting to be fine artists. “The argument does not depend on our asking questions of men and animals. It depends entirely on our observing behavior: our behaviour and their behavior. It is what the behavior tells us men do and animals don’t do, not what men say they do and animals don’t talk about.” Which bring us to a very useful point of logic (love this):
“Negative evidence is always inconclusive. We can never be sure that the negative evidence is not the result simply of our failures in observation.”
While positive evidence is much more certain than negative evidence, “certitude is not to be expected in the course of scientific reasoning”; we must be satisfied with probability.
Adler is now going to attempt to sum up the weight of evidence regarding this important issue:
- With regard to man’s body, it seems that it only differs in degree from the bodies of other animals, which supports Darwin’s hypothesis of the evolutionary origin of the human body.
- But with regard to the mind, he believes the evidence is overwhelming that man’s mind or intellegence differs in KIND from animal intelligence. And although animals can have greater perceptual acuity and sometimes longer memory, they do not have the abstract or rational intelligence as does man.
Luckman wants to know, if man’s intelligence differs in kind from animals, what does that imply about its origins and, secondly, “how can human nature, which is only one thing, not two, have more than one kind of origin, differing origins?”
Adler answers that there is nothing like the human mind in degree, and therefore it could not have evolved from natural things by natural causes; it must originate from supernatural causes, divine creation. He sees no issue with the hypothesis that God could have taken an animal body and introduced into it a rational soul. In the last chapter of The Origin of Species, Darwin says, “I see no reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone.” and “There is a grandeur in the view of life with its several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one. And that from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been and are being evolved.” leaving open the question “whether vegetable and animal organisms develop from one or from distinct primordial forms created by God.”
If God, according to Darwin, could make living organisms distinct from inorganic matter, God could also have created the human mind, “man’s rational soul, if you will, as distinct in kind from all forms of sensitive life as it exists in other animals.”
Now, the most important issue is this: is your mind open or closed? Adler knows from experience that most men and women consider this issue closed.
Closed Minds on Man’s Nature and Origin
Adler remembers giving a lecture on this subject at the University of Chicago to students and faculty in the biological sciences and was shocked to discover that the most advanced students and scientists had never heard anyone argue against Darwin’s theory of man’s origin and nature. Many people watching this program (of Adler and Luckman) had also never questioned Darwin’s theories. Adler states this one-sidedness is a sad state, a closemindedness that “is an unwarranted dogmatism that is, in my judgement, dangerous to the spirit of free inquiry and, according to the late Alfred North Whitehead, absolutely contrary to the true spirit of science itself.”
Whitehead became aware of his own dogmatism when Newton’s law of motion, supposed to be unchallengeable, began to be proved wrong. Whitehead said, “Nothing is more curious than the self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of its existing beliefs. Skeptics and believers are all alike ….. At this moment scientists and skeptics are the leading dogmatists. Such dogmatism is the death of philosophic adventure. The argument on any basic issue is never closed” Like Newton, Darwin too can be wrong.
Now Adler does not expect to persuade you, but he does want to emphasis that the issue itself is far from closed; as there is evidence on both sides it’s important to weight both sides with an open mind. But he is still puzzled as to why there are so many closed minds on the subject and surmises it is perhaps because science is taught so dogmatically in schools, but he believes also that evolution has “emancipated man from religion, from the belief that God created man in His own image with a special dignity and a special destiny, including divine rewards and punishments.”
Luckman points out that this is a theoretical matter and isn’t there practical aspects to be addressed?; after all, the issue concerns human actions and emotions more than thoughts.
“….. the belief or disbelief that God created man with a special dignity and a special destiny that accords therewith has profound practical consequences for the conduct of life, consequences which many persons wish to avoid. But it also has profound consequences of another sort that many persons wish to embrace.”
Which brings him to his point of the issue in practical terms:
Darwinism Is Incompatible With Human Dignity
Adler asks us to consider a practical issue first, the distinction between a person and a thing. There is never a doubt about either, as you would never call a shoe a person or even a beloved pet one. This is a difference of kind. One cannot be a little more or less of a person and likewise a thing is not more or less a thing; there is a sharp division.
There is a special dignity, special status, a social or political status conferred upon persons which man would not have if he were a thing. All the rights and liberties also belong to human beings as persons as well as moral responsibility and “personality is the essence of human equality and of man’s superiority to other animals.”
Adler takes it a step further. The Declaration of Independence says all men are equal as in having the same quality or character of being persons and therefore have the priviledges and liberties conferred upon persons, indicating a superiority of men over animals or things.
“Justice requires us to treat equals equally and unequals unequally.” When unequals are treated differently because one is superior to the other in kind, justice necessitates that we treat that inequality (of kind) differently than one of degree. If this were not true, we would have to amend our current treatment of human and animals. Being human, being superior in kind, justifies that we treat each other as ends, whereas brute animals can be treated as means.
NOW …. suppose that humans are superior to other animals only by degree …. therefore if higher animals can treat lower animals as means (as discussed above), then “the same principle of justice (would apply) if there are superior races of humans, they would be justified by that difference in degree in treating inferior races as things, exploiting from man only in degree and man from animal only in degree, then by the principles of justice we have no defense against Hitler’s doctrine of superior and inferior races and the justiification he would give for the superior to enslave, exploit, and kill the inferior.”
Finally Adler’s last proposition rests on three great religions of the West: Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism. The validity of these religions rests on the truth of the proposition that man is created in the image of God with a special dignity and destiny; if this proposition is not true, we should repute these religions as myths and essentially false.
Adler says he is not trying to convince you one way or the other. But you must decide between these two views because both cannot be true. “You cannot keep your religious, your political, your moral beliefs and also with another part of your mind hold Darwin’s view of man’s origin and nature to be true.”
To conclude, Adler stresses:
- “I think one’s actions should be consistent with one’s beliefs”
- “We are all guilty of hypocrisy if we believe that Darwin is right and that at the same time go on acting as if he were wrong, enjoying the privileges of human dignity, even demanding those privileges but at the same time denying the very facts on which that dignity and its privileges are based.”
Wow, this review is long but I wanted to cover all of Adler’s thoughts in order to follow them. He makes some very compelling points and forms intriguing conclusions. I’d like to re-read these five talks all together and have some time to mull over his logic.
The talks is this series can be found here:
- How To Think About Man
- How Different Are Humans?
- The Darwinian Theory of Human Origin
- The Answer to Darwin
- The Uniqueness of Man (found here)
Now on to the next series of five which are about love, the first one being: How To Think About Emotion.
⇐ The Answer to Darwin How to Think About Emotion ⇒